The Majerhat bridge in South Kolkata is a 50-year-old busy roadway. On Tuesday, 4 September, it suddenly collapsed without warning, risking the lives of the commuters who were on, under, or anywhere around the bridge. The crash was so massive that tremors were felt in many parts of the city.
Even as the clearance operations are on and the state government begins its probe, it is essential to recognise the people in the vicinity who acted swiftly, carried out rescue missions in their capacity, and worked tirelessly to help those trapped under the debris. In the crucial minutes right after the crash, these people stole the show.
Dheeraj Kumar Mondal was drinking his afternoon tea in an area nearby when he felt the tremors. The alert man rushed to the collapse site and was soon joined by Ghulam Mustafa and Dhananjay Singh.
Neither of them knew each other but the urgency of the situation invoked a sense of togetherness and co-operation, and they quickly rose to the occasion.
Speaking to the Times of India, Singh said, “I saw [a] biker—later identified as Soumen Ba—lying motionless. We did not know how to take him to hospital. So, the three of us climbed down the under construction Metro pillars and picked up a few plywood planks.”
The men used the planks as a stretcher to take Soumen to the hospital. Unfortunately, he was declared dead on arrival, but the men were instrumental in getting the body out of the debris.
Yet another hero in this incident is Shankar Kumar Jha who owns a local bar near the Majerhat bridge.
Soon after the crash, he started organising a team of people around the area, mostly workers at a nearby petrol pump and ragpickers, to collect things such as torches, ropes and ladders so that rescue work could be carried out smoothly. The Metro workers in the area also pitched in with their machines and equipment so that it would be easy to drill through the cement and stones to reach trapped victims.
Later, when the Disaster Management Group arrived at the spot comprising 30 members of the NDRF and about 250 police personnel, the rescue mission was then handed over to them. Even then, civilians like Jha stayed back and helped officials to rescue people, till late at night, searching for trapped victims or bodies.
While the bridge collapse claimed the life of one person and injured 25, without the efforts of these people, the situation might have been far worse.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)